top of page
AISF 25th webpage graphic.jpg


Monday, July 25th 2022

The video “Embodying Indigenous Languages,” supported and funded through the Indigenous Alliance Without Borders, has won 3rd place in the Professional Division I – Multimedia category of the 2022 National Native Media Awards sponsored by the Native American Journalists Association.

“Embodying Indigenous Languages” tells the story of the creation of a multilingual manual of anatomy in 17 Indigenous languages in transnational migration. The story, which begins with Mayan children in migration drawing the bodies of their parents as a game, documents the resilience of Native languages among Indigenous peoples in diaspora. Those images on butcher block paper were the basis for the creation of an anatomy manual that has been distributed to shelters and non-profits assisting Indigenous migrants in the United States, Mexico and Guatemala.


All 40 translators and editors in this project are Indigenous, the producer of the manual is Indigenous (Cherokee), while the film producer is Colombian, and illustrator is Mexican; both are mestiza. The Executive Producer – the Indigenous Alliance Without Borders – is a 25-year-old all-Indigenous-led organization based in Tucson, Arizona., a Cherokee owned-project (Blake Gentry), was the producer and conducted research, pre-production and script development. Raquel Mogollon is with Pan Left, an alternative media collective of primarily people of color, contributed through editing services. The Indigenous Alliance Without Borders, as executive producer, and Dr. Patrisia Gonzales (Kickapoo/Comanche/Macehual), ran fundraising, provided site location, and assisted in pre- and post-production.


Seventeen immigrant Indigenous family members and a single O’odham speaker drew 10 life-size drawings and interpreted terms into these languages: Akateka, Awakateka, Ixil, Jakalteca-Popti, K’iche’, Mam (Northeast variant), Mam (Central variant), Q’eqchí, O’odham. Twenty-two Indigenous language translators and editors then collaborated to complete anatomy terms in these languages: Achi, Awakateka-Chalchiteko, Chuj, Garifuna, Ixil, Jakalteka-Popti, Kaqchiquel, K’iche’, Kichwa, Mam, Mixteco, O’odham, Popoqomchí, Q’anjoba’l, Q’eqchi’. Cherokee Artist Joseph Erb designed the manual’s cover, which is featured in the digital story/video.


The video debuted at the Indigenous Alliance Without Borders virtual event commemorating the U.N.’s Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 6th, 2021. It was later shown virtually to the UNESCO Chair in Legislation, Society and Heritage at the University of Guadalajara in Mexico on November 17th, 2021. 


The annual competition by the Native American Journalists Association recognizes excellence in reporting by Indigenous and non-Indigenous journalists from across the U.S. and Canada. This year, NAJA received more than 750 entries across numerous categories. The awards will be recognized at the awards banquet on August 27th, 2022 as part of the 2022 National Native Media Conference (Aug. 25-27, 2022) at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix.

Embodying Indigenous Languages

MMIW/MMIP - Statement by AISF

Mission of Alianza Indigena sin Fronteras/Indigenous Alliance Without Borders:

Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras (AISF) affirms the rights of Indigenous peoples, their right to self-determination, their collective human and civil rights, the rights of sovereignty and the protection of sacred sites and the natural world, and the free unrestricted movement across international borders.


Statement on National Day of Awareness for Missing

and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls #MMIWG:


In April of 2016, members of the United States Congress introduced a resolution to designate May 5th as a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in honor of the unsolved murder of Hanna Harris, a Northern Cheyenne mother. Harris told friends and family she was going to see a fireworks show to celebrate Independence Day (July 4, 2013) and was never seen alive again. Four days later, her body was found at the rodeo grounds in her home community. Harris’ body was so mutilated coroners could not determine a cause of death. Harris’ story is not uncommon in Indigenous communities around the world. Currently, U.S. border policies have resulted in layered violence -- historical and recent --  on Native lands, particularly now as many migrants perish in the desert. 




MMIW image for report.jpg

Along the U.S.- Mexico border, countless Indigenous women and girls migrate or flee from Central and South America to the United States seeking  independence from climate injustice, physical, systemic, and structural violence, femicide/feminicidio, and state sanctioned violence. Many perish during this perilous trek, turning up among the unidentified human remains along the migrant trails, and face rape and assaults on their journey to the United States. In a joint report by the AISF and the International Mayan League to the United Nations, Indigenous Peoples’ Rights to Exist, Self Determination, Language and Due Process in Migration  we documented that at least 20 percent of asylum seekers who enter the Tucson border region are Indigenous

peoples and 30 percent constitute female-headed households. Numerous Indigenous females reported fleeing their communities due to physical violence, and feared being raped. Additionally, once here they are vulnerable to more violence, including sex trafficking. As noted by data provided by Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona, many of the Indigenous single-mother immigrants who passed through the shelter are headed to agriculturally-based areas of the country, which are often very rural and isolated, making access to support more difficult.  Yet, most of these stories are erased from our collective memory. 

Moreover, AISF understands the issue of MMIWG crosses international borders, state lines, reservation lands and impacts urban cities. According to an Urban Indian Health Institute 2019 study, Arizona ranked number three nationally in missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and Tucson ranked number four among U.S. cities, with 31 cases. The U.S.-Mexico border directly affects 17 tribal territories, (nine in Arizona: Tohono O’odham, Akimel O’odham, Pima and Gila River, Yoeme, Apache, Havasupai, Cocopah, and Quechan).  Additionally, many of these Nations have relatives living in Mexico whose mistreatment goes largely undocumented. As thousands of  Indigenous migrants seek asylum in the Tucson sector, the scope of potential violence against Indigenous women broadens. Of the identified human remains of migrants found in the Arizona borderlands, according to the Binational Migration Institute’s report documenting remains from 1990 to 2020, at least 15 percent have been female, and some reports are as high as 25 percent (Ramirez et al. 2021 an Rubio-Goldsmith et. al 2006).


Correspondingly, AISF recognizes this day not only represents the stories widely shared, but also the stories that have yet to be told, such as stories that are buried vis-a-vis state non-transparency, and that are extremely difficult to access from the immigration/internment camps of the United States. Presently, hundreds of Indigenous children have been separated from their families, and an untold number have been placed in homes in the United States and lost in the system. Forced separation of families harkens to forced removal of American Indian children from their families, from their mothers, grandmothers, aunties, and their familial kinship structures, into the U.S. child welfare system. We recognize the intricate connections between MMIWG and forced migration of Indigenous children and families to the US-Mexico border region, and that this aggressive displacement is intricately interwoven with capitalism and land grabs, state-sanctioned violence, anti-Indigenous racism, nefarious trade agreements and  cartels. Forced sterilization of migrating women in detention facilities reminds Indigenous peoples of the forced sterilization of thousands of American Indian women and how Indigenous female bodies have been targeted in times of war, invasion and conquest. For, to contain the life bearers of a nation, is to contain peoplehood of the Original Peoples of this continent.


Furthermore, AISF recognizes that the term “missing and murdered” extends beyond the physical realm. Acts of violence such as rape, assault, torture, separation of children from their mothers and families, misognistic, unjust, and patriotriarchal laws and policies, and dehumanizing language contribute to an enervated light that Indigenous women and girls must carry. Sometimes those flames perish entirely and Indigenous communities are left with community members who survive as shells of themselves, which is a direct consequence of continuous violence against Indigenous women, wmxn, trans, and Two-Spirit folx that is normalized as a pre-condition for Americans' experiment in freedom and democracy. That is, being mere shells of our true human selves and highest potential is what American national narratives, stereotypes, tropes, and myths about the United States' history manifests as MMIWG, a process and condition of U.S. settler colonialism and of a citizenry that demand a level of toxic, extractive consumption, and that disavows our belonging on and in the land.  


Finally, for AISF, the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls also includes the Indigenous Two Spirit/LGBTQ communities alongside fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, and sons because when one of our community members suffer, we all are forever affected. Indeed, today is a day we honor our communities and environments by advocating for the health, wellness, dignity, and respect of those with the ability to bear, nurture, and give life. In this way, we further pay our respects to Water. For many of our Indigenous relatives, Water is a woman, female, and Water Is Life. 


AISF Statement on the epidemic of #MMIWG’s Intersectionality, and the need to bring awareness to #MMIP:


As the AISF, we recognize that the issue is not just #MMIW but the issue(s) affect Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (#MMIP). We recognize the systemic oppression of Indigenous peoples and how it affects all our relations. As the AISF, we recognize that MMIWG highlights the multiple ways extractivist capitalism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, anti-Indigenous racism, misogyny, violent occupation, seizure of Indigenous territories and stolen generations intersect and violate Indigenous women, girls, wmxn, Two Spirit, and trans folx. We recognize that the MMIWG movement created crucial spaces and platforms to support the victims' families. As the MMIWG movement raised awareness across settler borders, this created more safe spaces for Indigenous survivors of victims of violence to expand and build upon the MMIWG work, which now includes: MMIP (Missing and Murdered Indigenous People). 

We ask that this day be a day of remembrance and change.  We call for the respect of all women, children, elders and two spirit people.  We demand the inalienable rights of these and Mother Earth to be restored and respected with the end of misogyny, capitalist greed, neoliberal strategies, and lack of understanding of our interconnectedness. We will continue to seek the missing and fight for justice.  We will never forget those who have been murdered and those yet to be rescued.  

Works Cited

Lucchesi, Annita and Abigail Echo-Hawk. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report. 2019. Urban Indian Health Institute. Seattle Indian Health Board.

Martinez, Daniel E., Robin C. Reineke, Geoffrey Boyce, Samuel N. Chambers, Bruce E. Anderson, Gregory L. Hess, Jennifer M. Vollner, Bruce O. Parks, Caitlin C.M. Vogelsberg, Gabriella Soto, Michael Kreyche, and Raquel Rubio-Goldsmith. 2021. “Migrant Deaths in Southern Arizona: Recovered Undocumented Border Crosser Remains Investigated by the Pima County Office of the Mexican Examiner, 1990-2020.” Report. Binational Migration Institute, University of Arizona.

Rubio-Goldsmith, Raquel, M. Melissa McCormick, Daniel Martinez, and Inez Magdalena Duarte. 2006. The “Funnel Effect” and Recovered Bodies of Unauthorized Migrants Processed by the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, 1990- 2005. Report of the Binational Migration Institute, Mexican American Studies and Research Center, University of Arizona. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona. http://,Murdered%20Native%20Women%20and%20Girls.

"Resistance, Rebellion and Regeneration. Fight all borders. Borders are not the way of our people. We are one family and will never be divided."
-Jose Matus, Executive Director, Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras
"Can the spirit transcend geopolitical borders?"
-Patrisia Gonzales, Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras
"We affirm the simple truth that the family of social constituencies from our Indigenous Peoples perspective includes all members of the public, and our relatives of the natural world, and we are only secondarily legitimized by our status as citizens or subjects of the established republics in the territories. We are not immigrants in our own continent of Abya Yala."
bottom of page